All-time Most Popular Posts

This Week's Most Popular Posts

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake

Looking for the perfect chocolate cake?  Look no further!  This cake is chocolate-y, super moist, yet springy, and absolutely delicious!  This one is one of our family favorites, whether as a sheet cake glazed with toffee syrup before being topped with whipped cream or as a layer cake filled with raspberry preserves. This is one chocolate cake that you just can't go wrong with, no matter what you decide to do with it.  As much as I am just not a fan of Hershey's chocolate or their cocoa, you'd never know that it was Hershey's with this oh-so-wonderful cake.  Enjoy :).

2c sugar
1-3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4c Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/2 baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1c milk
1/2c vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1c boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two 9-in baking pans. 

2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.

3. Beat on med. speed 2 min.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour into pans.

4. Bake 30-35 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. An alternative test would be to touch the center of the cake for springiness.  Once it is springy, it is done.

6. Cool 10 minutes (do not let sit in pan too long or it will stick).  Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Absolutely Perfect Omelette

Mmmm, look how thick and fluffy!

I'm not much of a eggs and bacon breakfast type of girl, so I never actually tried to make an omelette until now.  I tried out a recipe this weekend and once I got to the second omelette, everything turned out wonderfully.  Just the same, I wanted to perfect the recipe tonight.  I decided to see what adding half sour cream would do to the texture.  It did just what I expected--my omelette turned out super soft and fluffy and oh so delicious!!  Try it for yourself.  Enjoy!

3 eggs
1 TB heavy cream
1 TB sour cream (or plain yogurt, use heavy cream if you have neither of these--2 TB of either of these in lieu of heavy cream could also work)
salt to taste (about 1 tsp or so)
pepper to taste
a shake of garlic powder

 1 TB of butter and a drizzle of oil (the oil raises the smoking point of the butter and prevents burning)

1 tsp finely chopped green pepper
1 tsp finely chopped onion
1 TB sliced black olives
1 TB chopped tomatoes, excess moisture removed
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large handful of washed fresh spinach, lightly salted (or desired amount of thawed frozen spinach), sauteed with excess moisture squeezed out)
1 slice of jowl bacon, chopped and fried (regular bacon is fine too, you want the end result to be about 1 tsp of chopped bacon)
shredded cheese, desired amount (I like about 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup and I like to put cheese on the top and bottom of the other fillings to hold them in place)

1. Place omelette ingredients in a blender for one minute, allowing the mixture to become foamy

2. Melt butter and heat oil together over medium low heat in an 8" skillet (this smaller pan will ensure optimal fluffiness)

3. Pour blended egg mixture over the pan and allow edges to set just enough to lift them with an oiled spatula

4. Lift the outside edges of the omelette and allow egg mixture to flow beneath the set eggs.  Do this for all edges and smooth out the omelette with spatula to even it out

5. Continue this process until the omelette is nearly set

6. Once the omelette is nearly set, sprinkle toppings evenly across one side of the omelette and fold the other side of the omelette on top of it

7. Cover the pan and allow the omelettes to set and the cheese to melt

8. Slide the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate and enjoy :).

Don't laugh but my boyfriend will not eat his omelettes without ketchup, and I finally tried it...I must say, if you drizzle just a little good ketchup over the top, it sure is yummy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Rice Krispy Treats Drizzled with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

3 TB butter
10 oz marshmallows (about 40 marshmallows if you're using Jet Puffed)
1 heaping spoonful (eating tsp) of peanut butter (Planter's brand creamy peanut butter recommended)
6c crispy rice cereal
1 large bar finely chopped quality creamy milk chocolate, such as Milka or Ghirardelli
chocolate hazelnut spread  (I used Ulker Golden brand--use your brand of preference.  I must admit, the
          consistency of Ulker is much nicer than Nutella and it doesn't get dry or pasty)

1. Melt butter over medium heat.

2. Once butter is melted, stir in marshmallows and peanut butter until fully melted.

3. Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies.

4. Grease a pan with butter or oil, sprinkling the bottom of the pan with chopped chocolate.

5. Spread Rice Krispies mixture over the pan, sprinkle chocolate, and drizzle with chocolate hazelnut spread.  You may need to microwave it a bit to get it liquid enough to drizzle.  If you are a peanut butter lover, tou may also wish to do the same with some extra peanut butter, but it is optional.

6. Cover with foil to encourage softening of the chocolate pieces.  Allow to set and cut into equal slices.  Enjoy :)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Bread Pudding with Homemade Butterscotch Sauce *updated*

I had some leftover ciabatta bread yesterday, and I was definitely due for some de-stressing time in the kitchen, so I decided to make bread pudding.  I've been itching to do something with a peanut butter twist, so why not peanut butter bread pudding, right?  I knew that the peanut butter alone would create a very flat, one-dimensional flavor, so in came the idea for the butterscotch sauce.  There is just something very special about the combo of peanut butter and butterscotch.  It just never fails!

This bread pudding was easy to make and tasted divine!  The top was crusty; the inside was soft and moist without being a mono-textured blob.  The peanut butter created a flavor that was warm and slightly salty while just the right amount of sweetness and richness came from the butterscotch topping, and the golden raisins gave the perfect pop of slightly tart brightness to balance the flavor.  Mmmm, tasty perfection!  The cute little cupcake portions were a great touch and a nice little portion control aid...well, at least in theory ;).

1-1/2c heavy cream
1c milk (I used almond milk because that's what I had on hand)
3/4 c - 1 c sugar (to your taste)
2 TB butter
1  roundedTB of peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg yolks
8 cups of crusty bread cut into 1" cubes (at least day old--I used ciabatta, but French bread or challah is ideal)
1 heaping TB golden raisins, soaked in rum or scotch min. of 30 min. (microwave raisins in rum or scotch 30 sec to speed process)
cinnamon to taste (~ 1/4 tsp or so)
pinch of salt (I add extra because I like mine a little saltier)

homemade butterscotch sauce---this recipe calls for scotch, but I used dark rum because it's what I had on hand and it was absolutely delicious!

1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Place sugar, milk, cream, peanut butter, butter, and cinnamon in a sauce pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until homogeneous.  Note that there will still be thin streaks of peanut butter, but the goal is to remove any lumps.

3. Allow mixture to cool

4. Whisk egg yolks and whisk in vanilla and cooled cream mixture.

5. Soak cubed bread in custard and toss in raisins.  Allow bread to soak with custard and raisins for at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure that custard is nearly fully absorbed

6. Lightly press soaked bread cubed into a lined muffin pan.  Compress bread pudding mixture lightly to avoid gaps, but also to avoid a one-textured bread pudding.  I like a little crunch and texture variation.

7. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until springy when pressed.

8.  Once baked, drizzle hot bread pudding with butterscotch sauce

9. Remove liners before serving.  If desired, top with a dollop of homemade sweetened whipped cream

*You can mix the leftover egg whites with 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, sugar, and vanilla and make meringue cookies or you could always just add the extra egg whites to your eggs for omelettes in the morning, as I did, yum!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Asian-Inspired Sweet and Tangy Red Chili Pork Ribs

When I made this dish, it was one of those days when I was busy and had little time to cook.  I went to the international supermarket and saw this nice pork back rib meat.  I thought it'd be fun to play with some Korean spices and make a nice spicy, tangy sauce with a touch of sweetness and a nice fresh ginger flavor to balance everything out.  Since the ribs came cut into small pieces and the ingredients were pretty simple, I was able to make this dish quickly and easily.

The flavor of this dish balances the bitter heat of Korean chili powder, the sweet tangy-ness of rice vinegar, and the sweetness of sugar and honey.  Fresh ginger adds a nice pop of freshness and a soft crunch.  Surprisingly, the ginger rounds are actually very tasty, and they become almost candied in the cooking process, fully absorbing all of the flavors of the sauce.  The sauce is lightly thickened, as opposed to being the thick, sticky consistency of Chinese American food.  The meat on its own has a great flavor and a slight bit of chewiness (not the type that comes from being overcooked) with a very thin velvety, buttery-tasting line of fat along the edges of the bone.  Although the meat is a bit more difficult to get to with the way that the bone is positioned, the flavor makes up for it.  Other pork ribs, such as spare ribs or spare rib tips would work equally well.  In fact, I would likely prefer spare rib tips if I made this dish again.  Spare rib tips are actually one of my favorite types of pork for adding great flavor to rice dishes.

Enjoy this easy, flavorful dish with white rice.

1-1.5 lbs pork riblets, spare rib tips, or other smaller rib pieces
1/2 c corn syrup
1.5 c water
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 TB of fresh ginger (peeled and sliced into somewhat thin rounds beforehand)
1 tsp Korean chili powder**
2 tsp Korean red chili paste**
1 whole dried Korean red chili pepper**
1 tsp rice vinegar (much more affordable at any Asian market)
1 tsp of honey
1-1/2 TB of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
*cornstarch (2 heaping teaspooons should do the trick--the type you eat with)

*This will be used once the marinated meat is at frying stage

**These ingredients can be found at any Korean market or larger Pan-Asian supermarkets (e.g. Global Foods in Northern VA or Korea Garden on Midlothian in Richmond, VA (

5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp chili paste

1. Wash meat and rub marinade into meat for a few minutes.  Marinate for at least  one hour.

2. Make a sauce with the remaining ingredients.

3. Cook the sauce over medium high heat for about 5 minutes

4. Lower heat and simmer over medium low heat until thickened, about 25 minutes

5. Place meat in a pan with 1-1/2 TB oil over medium heat

6. Dust meat with just enough cornstarch so that both sides of each piece of meat receives an light dusting.  This seals in the meat's juices and will also aid in thickening the sauce later in the cooking process

7. Brown the meat over medium to medium high heat until 3/4 cooked

8. Once meat is cooked, add the cooked sauce to cover the meat and toss evenly

9. Cover the meat and bring the dish to a boil for just about a minute.

10. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fluffy and Crisp Waffles

Surprisingly, I haven't made waffles since I moved from Miami.  I was a bit obsessed when I first got my waffle maker.  I used to make them every week :), and I tried all kinds of recipes.  Since my little cousin from back home was staying over for the first time, I wanted to make a good breakfast for her.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find my manufacturer's waffle recipe book, which was surprisingly good, so I had to Google new recipes.  I took a big risk with a recipe that only had one review, but the ingredients looked pretty promising.  The recipe actually turned out to be my favorite!!  With a little tweaking, the texture was perfect--tender, fluffy, and somewhat crispy (I cook mine for 15-17 minutes, depending on the amount of batter--I like my waffles on the darker side).  With a little added sugar, the sweetness was spot on, and the honey created a great flavor!  I enjoyed my waffles with some homemade syrup (I use a little butter flavoring instead of maple) and scrambled eggs to which I added some chopped up pork left over from last night's dinner.  Talk about deeeelish!

Try this recipe out and let me know what you think.  I just added  a TB or so of sugar for added sweetness. My batter was runny and much looser than I prefer, so I also added about 3/4 cup of flour to get a somewhat thick, but still liquidy (as opposed to pasty) batter.  Just eyeball it.  A thicker batter makes for a denser waffle.  For the eggs, I separated the whites and beat them to soft peaks with a mixer before folding them into the blended battler.  The recipe with my adjustments makes 5 Belgian-waffle-sized waffles.  Enjoy :)!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pineapple Filling for Cakes and Pastries

Pineapple Filling
      looks ugly, tastes amaaaazing ;)   

fresh pineapple, peeled and chopped
sugar to taste
1-2 TB of dark rum
pinch of salt
2 TB or so of cornstarch (sift over the pineapple sauce while in the pan, sifting avoids lumps)
          Do NOT try to be exact with this.  Just add enough to get a desirable consistency that is not wet, but not overly stiff and jello-like either.  After about a minute on medium to medium high, you get the full effect of the cornstarch in terms of thickening.

This recipe is very much freestyle.  I didn't measure anything.  The recipe was inspired by the delicious filling used in Dominican cakes and the awesome homemade marmalades that abound there.  I just chopped some pineapple into chunks (maybe try 1-1/2 cups or so) and put it in the blender with enough water to get it going.  I pulsed it until I got a consistency still slightly chunky and not too watery.  Then I put that on the stove over medium to medium high with some sugar, cinnamon, 1-2 TB of dark rum, and a pinch of salt and added in about 2 TB or so of cornstarch to thicken it so that it would not run or get the cake wet.  End result = mmmmm mmmm, talk about GOOD!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Super Moist Homemade Basic Yellow Cake Recipe and Cake Decorating!

Hi everyone!

So I'm taking a cake decorating class at my local craft store (that was super affordable, I might add), and look what I did!!!!  Yay!!!!  Don't mind the off-balance decorations in the center.  Everything outside of the shells was pretty much me just practicing everything that we'd learned that day.  I guess I got lucky that it actually ended up looking somewhat balanced ;).  I'm super proud!  This is what we learned in our third class session.  Pretty awesome, especially considering how little I paid.  Anyhow, I just wanted to pop in and say that I will likely be posting cake decorating pics and tutorials soon so stay tuned!

I also wanted to share the ridiculously good cake recipe that I used for this cake.  The basic recipe is at the link below.  The cake turned out super moist and had a great flavor.  Instead of 1 cup of sour cream, I just did 1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice and 1/2 cup sour cream + 1TB of dark rum.  I had this cake with a yummy  homemade pineapple filling, which you can find in my other post.

The frosting was just the shortening-based buttercream frosting that is typically used for decorating cakes.  Butter becomes soft at room temperature and the frosting becomes to soft to hold the shape of things like flowers.  

FYI, for those who are curious, below would be stiff peaks.  That is NOT what you want.  If you do stiff peaks, you cake will have air bubbles.  Soft peaks is when the peaks that form kind of curl over or lean a bit at the top after you lift the beaters, whereas in the photo below they sit up straight and stiff.

without flash

with flash--see the stiff peak toward the center?

2-1/4 sifted flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

2c sugar

4 egg yolks

1/2c fresh pineapple juice (you can just blend fresh pineapple and strain)

1/2c sour cream

1 TB dark rum

4 large egg whites


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and line two 8 x 3-inch baking pans or one 12 x 3-inch pan with parchment. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the sugar and continue to mix until fluffy and light. 

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, being sure each is well incorporated before adding the next one. Add the vanilla. 

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream and pineapple juice, beginning and ending with the flour. Be sure the mixture is completely blended after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 1 minute. 

In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake in the preheated oven, 60 minutes for the 12-inch square pan or 45 to 50 minutes for the 8-inch pan. The top of the 
cake should be nicely browned. Test for doneness with a skewer or a toothpick; the tester should come out dry and clean. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Authentically Delicious Southeast Asian Stir Fried Pork and Squash

My boyfriend's dad loves to cook.  Though he isn't exactly the emotional, warm and fuzzy type and I definitely am, food is one of those things I feel connects souls.  I love to sit down with his dad and talk about traditional Cambodian food and learn a few recipes here and there. Stir fried pork and kabocha squash is actually one of my favorite Cambodian dishes.  The overall flavor profile of this dish is absolutely divine!  The rich flavor of the squash is an unexpectedly excellent accompaniment to the pork.  This stir fry is one of those things that's nothing like the sum of it's parts.  The squash acquires a velvety consistency, the pork is tender and flavorful, the garlic acquires a mild sweetness, the saltiness of the fish sauce balances the sweetness of the sugar and garlic, and the oyster sauce gives the dish depth, while the black pepper serves to break up the sweetness.  The green onion, although my boyfriend's dad does not use it, really adds a wonderful little pop of flavor that I just love!  The comparatively milder flavor of this dish makes it a wonderful introduction to Cambodian cuisine.  

Although it looks very similar to buttercup squash, don't be fooled.  Kabocha squash is a Japanese squash that is much firmer and has a much deeper, richer, sweeter flavor than buttercup squash.  The firm texture makes this squash ideal for stir fries.  With that in mind, I would strongly caution against substituting another squash in this recipe.  Although the preparation of the squash takes a bit of skill on the peeling and chopping end of things,the end result cooks so quickly that the overall time investment is actually quite minimal.  Just grab your squash and sit down in front of your favorite show, and it'll be done before you know it, maybe about 7 minutes.  For strategy tips, pay attention to the photos below.  Cut the peeled squash into wedges, then stand the wedges on their side and cut slices thickness-wise, as seen in photo #3.  From these slices, cut matchsticks, as demonstrated in photo #4, and there ya go!  Try this super easy and delicious dish and let me know what you think.  Yum, yum, YUM!!

What to do with the other half of the squash???  Bake it and eat it either plain or sugared; bake it into bread, sweet buns, muffins, or pancakes; or add in very thin slices to a frittata.  This squash works well in any recipe that uses pumpkin, buttercup, or butternut squash.  Don't forget to roast the seeds for a tasty snack ;).

Cambodian Stir fried Pork and Kabocha Squash

1/2 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and julienned (sold at some supermarkets and most SE Asian markets)

1 1b of pork (pork sirloin preferred--shoulder or butt can also be used, my boyfriend's dad often uses pork belly), sliced into matchstick-like pieces

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

a generous pinch of sugar (maybe around 1/2 TB or so)

cracked black pepper (maybe around 1 tsp)

1 green onion, sliced into thin rings

oil for cooking

**These items are found at any SE Asian market.  The brands photographed are the recommended brands.  They are only about $2 or $3.  For those in Northern VA, you can also find these items at Global Foods.

*All of the amounts above are approximate.  This dish is pretty freestyle.  Adjust to your taste preference or until you sense that the flavors are sufficiently balanced.  The only thing that will really mess up the dish is overcooking the meat

1. Marinade sliced meat in a modest amount of salt along with garlic for a minimum of 30 minutes.  This step is not traditional, but I find that the resulting flavor is superior. 

2. Pat marinated meat dry, being sure to remove any excess moisture, as the moisture will result in a watery stir-fry.  

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium high to high heat.  

4. Once the pan is hot, add in meat and squash and stir frequently to prevent overcooking

5. Season the ingredients with the oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper.

6. Continue stirring frequently to allow for even seasoning and cooking of the ingredients.

7. Once the meat is about 85% or so done, sprinkle the green onion over the top, lower the heat to about low or medium low.  Cover, and let cook for two minutes.

8. Serve with Jasmine rice and enjoy!